reviews\ Sep 19, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds - PS2 - Review

PS2 gamers, I feel your anguish.  I could sense your insatiable craving you all feel when there’s a Xbox Only game or GameCube exclusive that you probably won’t get to play unless you have a friend that owns that other console.  One of the games I know PS2 gamers have been dying to sink their teeth into is Buffy the Vampire Slayer--a game that debuted on the Xbox with much success and praise from game reviewers.  Well, my fellow PS2 gamers, we will get our chance to dust some vampires as Buffy Summers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds. 


I won’t go into great detail of the story behind the Buffy universe, but for those who haven’t watched the show--having just recently ended it’s lengthy run with a series finale--this is the story of a young ex-cheerleader who just happens to be a chosen slayer of vampires and demons.  Armed with great strength and backed up by her loyal friends (known as the Scooby Gang), she fights supernatural evil in the California town of Sunnydale that seems to be the center of a doorway to other dimensions including hell itself.


The game’s story plays like a lost episode of the show’s fifth season and, since the story is written by two of the show’s main writers, it falls perfectly in place with all the things we’ve come to love about the series.  It seems that an old adversary by the name of Ethan Rayne has appeared in Sunnydale again only this time he has awaken The First--literally the incarnation of evil itself.  Suddenly all that is evil has started to show its face in the city and threaten to blanket the world into permanent darkness.  So it is up to Buffy, the Scooby Gang, and three power allies that come in the form of second Slayer Faith, the vampire Spike and Sid the Dummy to put things right.


Chaos Bleeds takes you through familiar surroundings such as Sunnydale High, the Initiative base and an alternate universe version of the Sunnydale Zoo.  While the game focuses mainly on the Slayer, there are several times throughout the game’s twelve missions that you take control of Willow, Spike, Xander, Faith and even Sid the Dummy (introduced in the show’s first season as a demon hunter trapped in the body of a ventriloquist dummy). Each character has his or her fighting techniques and abilities.  Willow, for example, relies on her spells to get her through an encounter with vampires (she can throw fireballs as them) while sluggish Xander relies heavily on weapons since he is the weakest fighter of the bunch (he tells you straight off that he’s got zero fighting skills).


Both Buffy and Faith fight identically to each another and make full use of their powerful punches and kicks.  Both can also learn various new combo moves throughout the game that come in the form of spinning kicks or power punches. Yet half the fun is dusting a vampire with stakes or the broken remains of some piece of furniture (yes, mostly anything you encounter can be broken and used in battle).  You can pick up a shovel and smash it over a zombie’s head and, when it breaks, you can use the sharp end of your broken shovel to impale vampires.


Chaos Bleeds does have its flaws but they don’t necessarily bring the game down to the point that you aren’t able to appreciate its entertaining action.  The awful camera angles can be distracting, though, especially when entering a new room.  Often times you’ll find yourself wondering where an enemy came from in the first place since the camera doesn’t center itself quickly enough.  Another fault comes in the form of a character’s ability to concentrate on an enemy.  Often times you’ll be kicking a vampire around when suddenly Buffy faces away from the enemy and kicks nothing but air.


Visually, the game looks pretty decent when it comes to the backgrounds and all the familiar locations that will, no doubt, be recognizable if you’re a regular watcher of the show.  The Magic Box, for example, looks just like the one on the show . . . even down to the Slayer training room! The characters also look true to the actors that portray them, especially Buffy and Faith.  I won’t complain how un-sexy sexy Spike looks or how Anya looks nothing like her, but rather my gripe is focused more on the fact that the characters look doll-like during cut scenes.  The original Xbox game featured plenty of facial expressions and they even blinked naturally--something that is definitely missing in this game.


As far as the sound is concerned, the game is filled with an excellent score that certainly captures the essence of the show.  The score gets dramatic during fight sequences and creepy during moments of exploration or most cut scenes that introduce the bad guys.  The sound effects are also nicely done, especially when it comes to breaking things around you or the sounds of your enemies being sent back to hell.  As far as the voice acting is concerned, it’s great to hear the majority of the show’s cast doing the voices of their perspective characters.  While Sarah Michelle Gellar wasn’t available, her vocal stand-in does a great job.  Unfortunately the voice behind Willow just isn’t good at all.


At last, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer game on the PS2 that is actually highly entertaining and loaded with lots of juicy extras.  While there are a few things that could have been handled a bit better, nothing is more fun than dusting vampires with familiar characters by your side.  If you’re aching for a good action game set in the supernatural realm that is the Buffy universe; you can’t go wrong with this game. 


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 7.8
If there’s one thing that Buffy is good at--besides looking fashionably good in a dark cemetery--it’s fighting and fighting is what you’ll do a lot of in this game.  The kicks and punches are nicely handled and there are a few combos to keep the fights from seeming too repetitive.  It’s also great breaking chairs and picking up the sharp shards of wood to use against your enemies.  It’s also great to play as the other characters, most especially the more powerful fifth season Willow.  Thanks to the bad camera angles, you’ll be wishing the game included a first-person mode.


Graphics: 7.5
Graphically, Chaos Bleeds misses the mark . . . but not by very much.  Yes the characters do look a lot like their real-life counterparts but during cut scenes many of the characters hardly blink or have many facial expressions--which is something you might expect from Sid the Dummy.  Still, Buffy looks a lot like Sarah Michelle Gellar and her movements look good enough.  What really steal the show, though, are the fantastic special effects.  Watching vampires crumble to ash or set ablaze by Willow’s dazzling spells is a real treat.  The backgrounds look good as well and many of the locations you’ll encounter look true to the show. 


Sound: 8.0
Fans of the Buffy series will love the fact that the majority of the television series cast lends their voices for the game and the result is a game rich with talented voice work (most notably, James Marsters who delivers the dialogue in true Spike fashion).  While Sarah Michelle Gellar isn’t on hand (yet again) to voice the title character, the sound-alike does a spot-on impression . . . sadly the same can’t be said about the talent behind Willow’s voice (she sounds nothing like our favorite Wicca girl).


Complimenting the voice acting is the game’s music which does a great job of giving you the impression that you’re actually watching (and playing) an episode straight from the show.  There’s even the cool opening theme song and the same haunting score throughout the entire game.  Mix this in with some really great sound effects (you have to love the sound of a vampire getting dusted or set on fire) and you have a game with a cinematic feel.


Difficulty: Medium
The game’s biggest challenge is certainly not the puzzles or the fact that vampires, zombies or other undead baddies occasionally gang up on you, but it’s keeping the non-Slayers or witches alive.  While it’s amusing to see and hear from Xander, you’ll find yourself wishing he wasn’t replaced with Angel or maybe even ex-vengeance demon Anya.  Aside from trying to keep super wimpy Xander alive, the game’s challenge comes from the intelligent enemy AI.


Concept: 8.5
Chaos Bleeds wins big points for adding some fun extras to a game filled to the brim with all the things we love about the series.  Aside from the great interviews and behind the scenes footage, there’s a multiplayer mode and the plenty of levels throughout the game that will, no doubt about it, be fan favorites.  It’s also fun to be in familiar territory (if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll definitely recognize familiar Sunnydale locations) and to interact and play as show favorites that include Faith, the second Slayer.  Yet nothing’s more amusing--or more odd--than playing as Sid the Dummy.


Multiplayer: 8.0
Not a lot of gamers really knew that the first Buffy game on the Xbox had a two-player multiplayer mode that was a nicely hidden extra you can unlock by completing the game and punching in a cheat code to access the fighting arena.  Chaos Bleeds, on the other hand, introduces the game’s multiplayer mode in the game’s main menu.  Up to four players (using the PS2 Multitap) can play through four different multiplayer game modes such as Survival, Bunny Catcher (that’s right, you catch bunnies), Slayer Challenge and Domination.  There are also plenty of characters to choose from, including Buffy creator Joss Whedon. That said the multiplayer mode is definitely a pleasant addition.


Overall: 8.2
Chaos Bleeds is not as polished as the first Buffy Xbox game, but it certainly is fun enough to satisfy action gamers and fans of the show.  While the game has its share of problems here and there, it doesn’t distract from the game’s most appealing feature--dusting vampires and interacting with characters fans of the show have come to love.  If you like a good action game or love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this is certainly the game to buy.


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